The French government will develop laser weapons to fend off attacks in orbit and deploy mini-surveillance satellites by 2023 to protect space-based infrastructure, Defense Minister Florence Parly said.
“Today, our allies and adversaries are militarizing space,” Parly said in a speech that confirmed France will set up a space command in Toulouse from September 1. “As time to build resilience gets shorter and shorter, we must act.”
As Paris moves to counter threats from China, Russia and India, Parly said new legislation would be prepared to consolidate control of France’s space activities directly under the defense ministry.
French media reported the government plans to equip its satellites with machine guns to destroy solar panels on rival spacecraft, in addition to the “dazzling” laser systems announced by Parly.
The program should be completed by 2030, with some weapons ready by 2025.
“If we wish to be able to carry out actual military space operations, we must develop autonomy of action,” Parly said during the speech at an airbase in Lyon.
German officials have expressed skepticism of the plans and in particular the rush by France to militarize space alone, as POLITICO this week reported.
In her speech, Parly pointed to “consolidating our means” with other EU countries, citing Germany and Italy, to invest in more expensive technology.
“I especially count on Germany to be the beating heart of spatial surveillance,” Parly said.